Metric HasslesHaving read George Will's complaints about...


Metric Hassles

Having read George Will's complaints about the metric system ("Going Bananas Going Too Far Going Metric," Aug.31), I wish to add a few of my own. Because of my trade, I have been equally familiar with the both the English and metric systems for most of my life.

But the inch is divided in binary fashion for good reason. Mark an inch on paper and divide it in half by eye and then in quarters, eighths and sixteenths. Now try dividing a centimeter into tenths by eye. If we had it all to do over, we might well use a base eight number system.

Metric nuts and bolts would seem a good idea except that there are at least five different systems in use worldwide. Parts that look alike often are not. Though there is an international standard for this, the sole user almost is the U.S. military .

On the subject of wrenches for hex-head bolts, there are about twice as many sizes in a metric set as in an inch set. One consequence is that if you mistakenly pick the next size up from the inch set, it will turn freely on the bolt head. Make the same mistake with the metric set and you strip the head.

Printed circuit boards used in electronics were once universally designed on a tenth-inch grid, with parts made to fit. we now have in some cases two parts of identical function, one to fit on a tenth-inch grid and one a 2.5 millimeter grid. Go Figure.

McKenny W. Egerton Jr.

Owings Mills

'Where Were You, Mr. Bush?'

As the 1992 Maryland teacher of the year, I recently spent a week with 45 other current state teachers of the year and 90 international educators and students.

. . . We were given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to attend the 1992 International Space Camp. . . .Our experience included three days in Washington, D.C., during which time our agenda was to include a White House address by President Bush and dinner with Vice President and Mrs. Quayle.

Through no fault of our sponsors, neither event happened, nor were we given an explanation as to why.

The "education president" and his sidekick apparently chose not to take advantage of a truly unique happening.

How embarrassing for all involved, especially when most of our international visitors had never been to the United States and had financed their own trips to join us in Washington.

I guess I can understand why Mr. Quayle may have been intimidated by such an elite group of gifted students and award-winning educators, but both he and Mr. Bush should be held accountable for their absences.

Once again, promises unkept and empty words. We should have known better.

This could have been, for the incumbents, an ideal public relations event, if not an arena for educational articulation and endorsement.

If, as our President stated in his acceptance speech at the convention, promoting the American ideal abroad is a priority, he should have literally looked in his own back yard. The world was there waiting; where were you, Mr. Bush?

Now you read my lips, sir -- you blew it. You missed a wonderful time, a moving and productive experiment in global understanding and initiative, an international summit of the very highest order.

Gemma Hoskins


Budget Questions

Each time I read in The Sun articles concerning the state budget and spending problems, there's a powerful urge to shout in a voice loud enough to be heard above the sound of your presses: "Excuse me, but isn't there something missing here?"

When your writers quote the governor or this or that legislative leader about "budget shortfalls," why is it I can never seem to find in their articles a comparison of this year's budget with last year's budget?

In other words, are we talking here about shortfalls in, and thus the need to reduce, what was to have been increased spending? If you'll simply give your readers the actual money figures on the two budgets, we can decide for ourselves whether spending is being reduced.

Another question of Sun readers that never seems to be answered is this: Do Maryland teachers receive incremental pay increases?

We are frequently reminded, as we were again in the Sept. 9 edition of The Sun, that teachers have not received a cost-of-living pay increase since January 1991.

Normally, a teacher's salary increases automatically for each year of experience in the classroom. An education writer certainly is aware of incremental raises.

Why, then, is information concerning this never mentioned, especially when statements continue to be published such as this one by Baltimore County School Superintendent Stuart Berger: The teachers "haven't had a raise in three years"?

The question remains unanswered: Are teachers and/or administrators getting incremental pay increases or not?

Jack Shelton


Don't Distort Malcolm X's Place in History

As a 16-year-old young woman, I was dismayed with Carl T. Rowan's column on Malcolm X calling him "no fit hero for today's young" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 4). Malcolm X was a consequential leader who instilled black pride into the hearts and minds of countless African Americans.

I am sure that you are familiar with the fact that he went to Mecca in 1964. After his pilgrimage, Malcolm said he tossed aside many of his previous conclusions about the so-called "blue-eyed devils." He began to realize that it was the system that should be blamed, not a specific race.

Few people understand that the frustration and anger that Malcolm felt toward the attitudes of people in power 30 years ago are the same emotions that today's youth have about our present -- still racist -- society.

It is true that Malcolm X was no angel when he was younger. What do you judge people by -- their previous errors or what they make out of themselves?

What Malcolm X did for blacks and for the Nation of Islam cannot be measured by school or police records.

Instead, he gave many oppressed people the courage to stand up for themselves and their rights.

I am not saying Dr. King's actions were meaningless. He, along with Malcolm X, were the greatest black minds that ever lived.

But why were so many intimidated by Malcolm X's powerful messages, yet tolerated Dr. King's "other" movement, when they were both fighting for the same thing -- freedom?

I, too, hope that Spike Lee's movie represents Malcolm X appropriately, and that it also explores the point that no one really knows who killed Malcolm X.

Talmadge Hayer confessed in 1977 that he had been working for the Nation of Islam, but the state of New York refused to reopen the case, despite Mr. Hayer's admitting that the two other men who were arrested were innocent.

Later, under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI released files suggesting that the government was more involved than people knew.

A number of questions still remain unanswered about "El Hajj Malik El Shabazz," but one thing is certain. When you listen to Malcolm X, you will see a man who did not preach "hate" but love; a man who talked about violence in the name of peace.

He was a strong man who stood for something instead of falling for anything -- like many people who do not thoroughly research sometimes do.

Florence Kreisman


Again many readers of Carl T. Rowan may complacently settle for only half the story. In his Sept. 4 column concerning Spike Lee's movie about firebrand Malcolm X's life, Mr. Rowan correctly recounts Malcolm's initial theory that all people of the // white race are evil and that segregation would mean salvation for blacks.

Mr. Rowan vehemently reminds us that Mr. Malcolm has a history of burglary, pimping and prison life. Mr. Rowan conveniently forgets that within his own lifetime, Malcolm X disavowed ties with his past criminal life and his racist views.

Toward the end of his life, Malcolm X acknowledged and told all who would listen -- black, white and otherwise -- that each person must be judged on individual character and beliefs and that segregation was not necessarily the solution.

We all have something in our past lives which we wish to be forgiven so we may heal in the present. Shouldn't this be the thrust of racial harmony?

It is clear for those that seek the truth that Mr. Rowan's 17 paragraphs on a prophetic life or Mr. Lee's movie cannot be relied upon. Instead, readers should seek for themselves the many biographies of Malcolm X's life.

Indeed Mr. Rowan may himself be a firebrand -- intentionally inflaming readers with the hope of expanded and continued readership.

Marc C. Butler


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